NEW YORK (Reuters) - Auburn University's Heisman trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton declared himself eligible for the 2011 NFL draft on Thursday.

Newton, who led the Tigers to a perfect 14-0 season capped by 22-19 victory over the Oregon Ducks in U.S. college football's championship game on Monday, said on the Auburn website (http://auburntigers.cstv.com) that he will forgo his senior year and pursue a professional career.

"It was a very hard decision for me, especially after coming off the great season we had at Auburn."

Newton, rushed for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns while passing for 2,854 yards and 30 scores this season and is expected to be a first round selection.

The hulking quarterback set numerous Auburn single-season records, including rushing touchdowns (20), passing touchdowns (30), total offense (4,327) and rushing yards by a quarterback (1,473).

(Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by John O'Brien)